Zentangle: mindful art creations


I consider myself a fairly creative person. Not only am I a software designer/programmer, which is creative in itself, but I also like to dabble in various art forms. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered any art form–indeed, I usually become bored with a particular kind of art and move on to something else. I’m not sure what that says of me, maybe I don’t think I’ll ever be great at whatever it is. I don’t think that’s it, because I just enjoy the “doing” much like the “playing” of games (where I don’t really care if I win–which is different than wanting to have the right answer ;-)).

What types of art have I done? Well, not drawing (at which I do NOT excel) or painting pictures (which is way too much like drawing unless I go abstract, which we already discussed in a previous post). Here’s a list of different types of art that I’ve tried, liked, but haven’t done in at least a few months, if not longer.

  • Knitting–can’t do it, don’t know why
  • Crocheting–enjoy it, but hurts my hands and i have to watch every stitch or I drop them!
  • Scrapbooking–love it, did my daughter one for her 21st birthday, lost my mojo when my son went off to Italy for 3 years–where’s the deadline for HIS book?
  • Jewelry making
    • Beads–again with the hands (arthritis)
    • Wire twisting–yeah, also hard on the hands
  • Painting things (which is WAY different than painting pictures)
    • Boxes
    • Wood Christmas trees
    • Chalkboard eggs
  • Card making–okay, this one I still do occasionally. It’s very similar to scrapbooking. 😉

My current art “phase” is Zentangle. I started doing this on the cruise, but the first book I bought (Joy of Zentangle) was too open-ended for me. I tried some of the tangles but wasn’t sure on how they all went together. So I bought another book, One Zentangle a Day, which I like much better. It’s more task oriented–do this today, now add shading, now add sparkles, now modify a tangle. Much easier for me to use to make the tangles into my own art.

One of the things I enjoy the most about tangling is the Zen aspect. Each tangle is supposed to be created in 30 minutes in a mindful manner. That means, you focus on creating the art and you are “in the moment”. If you’ve been reading anything about cutting down on stress, you’ll see those words a lot. You should be in the present, focus on the moment. My yoga teacher says that often during class. At the beginning, we do breathing and focus on our breath to be more aware of “the moment”.

Zentangles are supposed to help you focus–apparently the act of doing this creativity in the moment allows our mind to clear and be more prepared for other creative tasks. I’ve seen artists talking about tangling and then working on their other art or writing or whatever task and having more focus and performing better.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it–how much better would we be at creative tasks if we didn’t let ourselves get bogged down in stress so much?

Musings about art, crafts, and creating art for fun


I’m going to open this post by saying I love art museums and sometimes art galleries (depending on their level of snootiness). That’s not to say that I love all art, because I definitely do NOT. I used to take the kids down to the Cincinnati Art Museum on Saturdays, when it was free and also family day. Family days are when the museums try to figure out how to draw the kids into enjoying the museum, which I always thought was great. Scavenger hunts, things to create your own art, people in the galleries with touchable art–all awesomely great things.

Cincinnati Art Museum (photo by Greg Hume)

I’ve gotten off on a tangent from where this post was originally going to go so I think I’ll run with it. 🙂

When we travel (or when we’ve lived in other cities), we’ve gone to museums…lots of museums. Some much better than others (of course), some small but with interesting pieces, and some with not a whole lot that we liked.

I always tried to get the kids to pick out the piece they liked best in each room and say what they enjoyed about it. Sometimes when they were younger, they rolled their eyes at this. 😉 But now, I think they appreciate the sentiment–which is look for the good and things you enjoy everywhere.

We mostly do not like this type of art, of which Mondrian is an example:

Why are people so excited about different sized blocks of color? I dunno!

We’ve even joked that surely we could create a masterpiece of a canvas covered in just red paint (seen quite a few) or red paint with one line of a different color (seen more of those than the first). So, the idea, apparently, is that you convince someone with a lot of money that what you made is art.

I do like some modern art.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art has been a long time favorite of mine. And it’s huge–really huge. I know for a fact I have not walked everywhere in that museum and I’ve been there more than 20 times. The first few times Ben went, he doesn’t remember since he was pretty little when we lived in New York City (Governor’s Island). But both he and Jessie were in love with this museum through reading the book, From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which takes place in the museum. And not just takes place, but two kids run away and LIVE in the museum. There was some disappointment when we couldn’t locate the actual bed they slept in. If you have not read that book, I highly recommend it–I still enjoy re-reading it.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

The Met (that’s the Met, capital M, no one, but no one, in NYC calls it anything but the Met. Not to be confused with the Mets with an s on the end, who are usually a disappointing ball team or the Metropolitan Opera, also shorted to the Met, confusing, I know) now has to share its spot in my heart with the Victoria and Albert Museum (which is known as the V&A by all Londoners and people in the know–I sense a theme here, good museums have to have an easily shortened name).

The V&A, London, UK

The V&A, London, UK

Both are large too. And have night time events with food and alcohol. And both have more than just paintings, they have things…objects that people used in the past. Because objects are art too! The first time we went to the V&A, everyone was especially enthralled with the gallery called the Casts Gallery (or Casts and Forgeries, as it is also dubbed). This is filled with artwork created by stealing or making casts of other artwork. They are awesomely large and beautiful.

Casts & Forgeries Gallery at V&A

I’m going to also mention that I almost got rid of my whole family after our visit. Everyone was SOOO exhausted that we left early and they they spent an hour (or more) looking at pictures OUTSIDE OF THE MUSEUM. Standing…the entire time. Yes, they knew I was mad, and yes, I think they even still feel bad. 😉

The next time was just John and I and we went TWICE to make up for it. Once on their “Friday Late” with food, wine, and music and once during the day time. It was wonderful, both times, wonderful. 🙂

The V&A probably also started an ongoing “in joke” about Chihuly. Chihuly is a glass artist–makes gorgeous glass chandeliers and flowers and things. If you live in San Antonio, you can see his work at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA, yes, they have a short name, but they’re not there yet–takes more than a short name!) in the space right before the entrance to the rotating gallery or to outside. You can also see a beautiful chandelier in the library–he’s more likely to make ones which are all in the same color family, but the library has a Fiesta colored one. V&A has one, so does the Cincinnati Art Museum, so did our first cruise boat, the Disney Magic. So, all aspiring art places want a Chihuly–esp. if it’s a chandelier. I don’t think the Met has one–not sure what that’s all about!

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It’s amusing to have inside jokes. I think I’ve finished my art musings and you will just have to wait longer for the part that was going to be crafts and creating art. lol

Amazon Echo thoughts


So, I bought an Amazon Echo when it first came out, sometime around the end of November last year.

Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo–inobtrusive, pretty blue glowing ring on top.

I was so excited to purchase it. Here was a product that was going to play my music, answer questions, and grow into a whole house control system!

I plug it in and connect it to our network. Alexa (that’s her name and I cannot change it–she would apparently get confused as she cohabits so many Echo units at once) spoke to me. I wasn’t sure what to do with her yet. My iPad mini didn’t have an app for Amazon Echo yet–just a redirect to a lame web page. There was an Android app that was more full featured. And on a Fire device, even more is available. We have a Fire–we don’t like it, but we have one. 😉

So, what does she do in the beginning, you ask?

  • Music

    • She’ll play Amazon Prime music: playlists, artists, songs. In theory, this is great. Provided you know the exact names of the playlists and that Alexa understands you.
    • iHeartRadio–she’ll also play stations on iHeart Radio–if you can get her to actually play the correct station.
    • tunein radio–she’s a little better at this, but again, you need to know the station name. And you better not say “Classical Portland” when you mean “All Classical Portland”! Because she can’t find the station “Classical Portland”!
  • Ask her questions

    • Better make them simple–like how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. Cause you already know the answer to that one!
    • Don’t ask her who was in a movie–she doesn’t know, trust me. Apparently she doesn’t watch all those movies Amazon has. And she can’t find imdb.com.
    • If she doesn’t know the answer, she tells you she opened a Bing search (!!) in your app. Alexa, real people don’t use Bing search–we use Google. That’s why people say, “let me Google that”.
  • Ask her for news–I don’t like the news, it’s scary–I don’t do this. 🙂
  • Add items to a todo or shopping list. You can add them–you can’t do anything with them, but you can add them. I think I added some the first week–I think the items are still on there!
  • There’s a remote–I haven’t used it since the first day when I lowered the volume with it.

So, here’s how it typically goes: Alexa, play classical music. “I don’t see classical music in your library.” Alexa, play station for classical music. “iHeartRadio does not have a station named classical music.” Alexa, play tunein radio classical music. “tunein does not have genre stations.” Alexa, play classical portland. “I did not find a station named classical portland.” I’m waiting for her to tell me to stop yelling at her! At this point, I open the app and select the station myself. Or I say, Alexa, stop!

Sometimes I tell her to skip songs. Sometimes she tells me she doesn’t understand that command. Sometimes she actually skips songs. Sometimes I tell her to thumb up or down songs. Sometimes she doesn’t understand that command. Sometimes she tells me she can’t do that now. Sometimes she does, but feels the need to say, “I’ve saved your rating.”, which is only necessary because so often she doesn’t do what I say!!

Also, now that I have her, it sure would be nice if all of MY music was also available. I can upload some music to Amazon Prime–about 3 albums worth. Then I have to pay if I want more space. Google Play is okay with me “uploading” (it’s not really uploading) most of my music. Does Alexa work with Google Play? No, no she does not.

Amazon has added new features since I first got the Echo.

  • Spotify (don’t use it)
  • Simon says (really?)
  • New prime playlists (not really added to Echo, per se, and Alexa STILL doesn’t play or know that I want 80s music or something)
  • Oscars movie quotes (really? yeah, I feel that way about a lot of the additions)
  • Exciting game night additions like rolling the dice and flipping a coin (!)
  • Dr. Seuss quotes (who can remember that she does those very specific kinds of things?)
  • Sports and science (this was a lie in the email subject as Echo really added sports and Star Trek)
  • Traffic (haven’t used it yet, sounds somewhat useful except it only does traffic to one place. Yes, as long as you always go to the same place, you can hear how the traffic is)
  • Pandora (this is fine as long as I play the station using my tablet)

Smart house

Yesterday, I received a notice that Alexa would now be able to control lights and switches in your house. How exciting, this is what I was hoping would be coming as part of Echo. I forwarded it to John. This is his response:

“Sounds cool if it works right.  Hopefully it works better than music.  Alexa turn on thelight.  No, do not open the garage door.  No, do not turn off the heat.  No, do not turn on the oven.  Alexa, forget it!”

He’s so right! But someday, maybe!

The long awaited (maybe, I dunno what you people think) kitchen transformation


I know I promised each room would get its highlight. But the kitchen took so long and there was so much else to do, that I haven’t gotten a round tuit yet (Well, actually I have one, but don’t tell anyone). And then there was spring planting and that had to happen at springtime, right? Now, Easter boxes are sent to the daughter and granddaughters (sorry again, Ben), so breathing room again.

On to that kitchen magic! And it was magic, let me tell you. We’ll have a series of before and after shots.

The kitchen sink area–the sink was too deep to reach the bottom comfortably (for me). Plus, it was some strange white material that stained whenever you rinsed something off. The new, black sink goes much better with the granite and the blinds and pendant lights really change the whole look.

Island–the island was too big for the area it was in. If you opened the dishwasher, you almost hit it. Plus, two people could not really walk past each other on either side. One side had an overhang where, when the house was staged, they had stools. No way could anyone have sat at them while people were in the kitchen doing anything. The new island is a foot shorter and the overhang was removed from the granite. The kitchen feels much roomier now.

Peninsula–John really disliked how low these were as he had to bend over to see under them. As you can guess, I didn’t, but I was totally on board with shorter cabinets with lighting to display glassware.

Stove area–let me just say I don’t like electric cooktops and those flat ones (esp. when they’re white) just scorch when you cook on them. Top that with a microwave/vent that was so tall if whatever I put in it ended in the back of the microwave, I had to add 7 seconds to make it come to the front or I couldn’t reach it!

Fridge side of the kichen–originally had large cabinet and desk area (with antique intercom system). New area has microwave and cookbook shelves with drawers below and 3 pull out pantry shelves.

Breakfast nook–the breakfast area seemed a little small for a standard table and chairs–especially for chairs on all sides. John is eventually going to put in a window seat to go with this table and benches. The tulip pendant light combined with the curtains give the area a nice cosy feeling. And it’s right next to the tea things, which helps add to that.

Stove area–here was another case of some freakishly tall people did this kitchen. Like the microwave, the top oven was too tall for me to take anything out of it–safely anyway. Sadly, it was a nice convection oven–but we replaced it with another convection double oven. This one has its own wifi–cause who doesn’t need an oven with wifi??

Well, that’s the gist of it. The kitchen remodel was way more extensive than we had thought. We originally were going to paint the cabinets, but the previous people painted them with latex–don’t ever do that–which we would have had to scrape off entirely before putting enamel on them. The granite is very nice though and it stayed. The tiles stayed too–but they’ll go eventually! 😉


Spring plantings–in the ground growing like…dare I say it…weeds? ;)


Some pictures from the plantings–on some, I circled them in red so you could actually tell where something was planted! This is from last weekend and today we toured the yard (yes, that’s what we do) and some of them were significantly larger already! Yay!

Spring planting at our new home!


You know how it is, a couple of days of 75 degree weather and sunshine and suddenly the idea of planting flowers in the yard overwhelms all other urges! And by “planting”, I typically mean picking out, arranging in the space, and watching John do the actual planting! And those who know us, know that our old home originally had a football field for a backyard when we moved in. And over the years, we transformed it into a beautiful area with gardens (and the pool, of course). The new home already has some landscaping, but it’s not exactly our kind of landscaping, if you know what I mean.
One of John’s customers had given us a Rainbow Gardens gift certificate (and they are the best nursery in town) so we headed over there today for a 2 hour (yes, that’s how long it takes to stop and discuss plants and walk thru the entire place) stroll of picking out plants…some with firm ideas of where they would go, others just because we liked them and they were not “full sun” plants (of which there are many and those marked full sun by Rainbow Gardens do actually want full Texas sun, unlike ones marked by the plant companies who don’t understand that full sun in Texas and full sun in Massachusetts are like entirely different worlds!)
So we ogled the plants and loaded up on quite a few.

We didn’t want to leave the babies in the car, so we stopped and picked up Panera to eat at home. And after refortifying ourselves with cups of tea, we planted the coleus out front. And the Mexican heather in the mailbox…well, not IN the mailbox, per se, but in the mailbox’s planters!

There are red, white and pink ones in here--only if you look REALLY closely.

There are red, white and pink ones in here–only if you look REALLY closely.

I know, they're small right now. I remember when I planted things when I was younger, I always planted them too closely--because there's no WAY they'd get as big as they say!

I know, they’re small right now. I remember when I planted things when I was younger, I always planted them too closely–because there’s no WAY they’d get as big as they say!

Then we were too tired to plant any more…plus it was getting dark. And wasn’t the sunset pretty tonight? Ah, good days.